Native plants for hummingbirds

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Agility, speed, and fearlessness all bundled into a 3-inch package wrapped in iridescent colors! Who doesn’t love hummingbirds?! You can entice them into your yard (and possibly onto your outstretched hand) by offering them plenty of nectar-producing flowers.

But, did you know hummingbirds serve a higher purpose than mere cute-ness and entertainment? They help pollinate plants as they move among them. And, more than 130 native plant species rely exclusively on these birds for cross-pollination — they can’t exist with them. Hummingbirds consume a lot of energy every day just looking for nectar plants from which to drink. So, offer them a garden plentiful with flowers, and you’ll make their lives a bit easier (not to mention they’re awfully fun to watch)!

Hummingbirds migrate, and you’ll see the heaviest concentration while they move northward in spring to their breeding range in the U.S., and south in the fall to their winter range in Mexico and beyond. Some species stay all year in California, Oregon, and Washington, and an occasional few spend winter in southern Florida and southern Texas. But those of us in other parts of the U.S. must take our enjoyment during the few months they spend with us in summer. Check online to see which hummingbirds visit your area and when.   America’s long-distance hummingbirds   

Hummingbirds are drawn to bright colors, especially red (which is why most hummingbird feeders are red). But, they don’t entirely limit themselves and will sip nectar even from white flowers. 

Plant flowers in masses of the same color — a single bright flower here and there just doesn’t scream “come to me” to a little bird passing overhead. It’s also more appealing to the human eye.

Hummingbirds like to have many different sources of nectar, so plant several varieties. Be sure to include species that flower at differing times, too, so something is always in bloom. If you include hybridized plants, be sure to select single-bloom species, as hummingbirds prefer them over double-bloom varieties.  Slow-motion video of how hummingbirds “sip” nectar.

Listed below are some of the native plants favored by hummingbirds. Plant lots of them in your garden and start enjoying the wonders of hummingbirds!

NATIVE PLANTS FOR HUMMINGBIRDS

P= perennial; A= annual;  Sp= spring;  S= summer;  F= fall;  E= early;  M= mid;  L= late  A,P= annual in cold climates, perennial in warmer locales. V= varies, depending on species

*Top photo: Allen’s Hummingbird, Selasphorus sasin. (Dawn Beattie / Flickr; cc by 2.0 )

More reading:

Hummingbird nectar recipe   
Explore an insect-friendly yard   
Types of birdfeeders   

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